Navy and Maryland were in the same predicament last December: Each needed a new football coach.

The Midshipmen had lost confidence, momentum and ultimately, games, under Gary Tranquill. Much of the rest of the brigade had lost respect for the team, so when members returned to Bancroft Hall they got scorn instead of encouragement. Enter Elliot Uzelac.

At Maryland, as the controversy surrounding the cocaine-related death of Len Bias swirled around the basketball program, the entire athletic department was sucked into the vortex. As the controversy unfolded, players said, football coach Bobby Ross grew tighter and demanded more from his team. Instead of responding, some players pulled away and the season, by Terrapins standards, was a wash. Enter Joe Krivak.

Actually, Krivak was already here. He and his family have been in this area since 1974 -- an eternity by coaching standards. There were three years with Jerry Claiborne at Maryland, five seasons with George Welsh at Navy and the last five under Ross at Maryland.

"I'm going to retire from here or I'm going to get fired from here," said Krivak. "It's that simple.

"When I was in college I played for a guy {Ben Schwartzwalder at Syracuse} who was the coach for 25 years and that adds a lot to it," Krivak said. "When you talk to youngsters, one of the things they're concerned about is, 'Are you a mover? Are you going to be there?' If you look at my track record, I have not been a mover.

"I was a high school coach for 11 years and stayed in the same community. I was at Syracuse for five years and I had to move there because I didn't have a job. When I came to Maryland, I was with Coach Claiborne and was very satisfied here. Then I got caught in the coaching change. I've had opportunities to leave the area and to get on some pretty good staffs. But then again, my kids were at a point in their careers where they were playing high school athletics, so my wife {Jean} and I decided it wasn't worth it to move. A lot of people do move and the grass always looks greener on the other side of the fence, but I've always thought this was a good place to be."

Krivak showed how firmly he believed that last year when he added a screen porch onto his Bowie home despite rumors that Ross and crew might be packing.

"I held off for two years putting a screen porch on our house," Krivak said. "One year I thought we {Ross and his staff} were going to Minnesota, but I made the decision that I wasn't going. I've been to Syracuse and there was no way I was going to Minnesota. So a year ago, I said to hell with it. I was missing all those opportunities to have breakfast on the screen porch."

Krivak, 52, had sought several head coaching positions -- Navy and Syracuse are just two -- when he was in his late 30s and early 40s. But after he had been bypassed several times, he all but stopped applying for top jobs.

"I liked my style of life, I liked what I was doing, I liked the friends that we had and liked what we were doing coaching-wise and we were having success," Krivak said. "That was enough for Joe Krivak."

But just being a football coach is not enough for Joe Krivak.

"You've got to keep it under control so you don't take away from family and have some time you spend by yourself," Krivak said. "To me that's important. I like to play golf and get out by myself. We have some close friends in the Bowie area, mostly outside of football. I want to maintain that type of contact. There are times I want to get away from football. I have some other interests and I just can't think football 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. A lot of guys can. A lot of guys thrive on that. That's just not me and I like to get away to think about and do other things . . .

"Some guys say, 'If I can't coach, I can't do anything.' I don't feel that way. If you're not afraid to work, and have the freedom to learn something new, there's always something."

There's always the screen porch business.

"I've done carpentry work, dug ditches, pumped gas, worked in a steel mill -- I've done a lot of things," Krivak said with a smile. "I'm at the point in my life when I don't worry about those things anymore."

Worrying is something Elliot Uzelac knows all about. The other day, he strode quickly into his office, passing a player who was in the outer office.

"How are you, coach?" the player asked innocently.

"Pretty good, but I'd be better if you knew your assignments a little better," Uzelac responded.

"Yeah, I'm a demanding person," Uzelac said. "I want everything right. I want it as good as it can possibly be for our players, but not to the point it's out of line with what we do at the academy. The recruiting will be first class, the facilities first class. I want everything to be tops, and it should be at the academy."

Uzelac said the only surprises so far have been on the field.

"It's been a very positive experience," he said. "The administration is really behind the program. Everything we've discussed as far as improving facilities has been completed or is within days of completion. There's no question they want to win.

"The only thing that's maybe a little surprising is the different levels of talent we have. It's so inconsistent. At one position, we have good talent and can compete with anybody. But at another position, we're just a little short. The levels of ability are so different. I really hadn't seen that before."

Uzelac said part of his job is to channel the resurgent enthusiasm.

"We have to teach them not to use all that energy in the wrong way," Uzelac said. "They need to learn to do the little things and concentrate on the technical aspects of the game. For whatever reason, it had not been done before. They give great effort, but it's not funneled into the proper techniques and assignments."

This is Uzelac's second tenure at Navy and second as a head coach. He was a Navy assistant in 1971-72 before leaving for Michigan. He was the head coach at his alma mater, Western Michigan, from 1975-81. He won more Mid-American Conference games than any other Western coach but was fired after the 1981 season. Not everyone gets a second chance.

"I was upset at the time, but it doesn't bother me now," Uzelac said, "because the people who came prior to or after us did not do as good. I feel fortunate to be hired at the Naval Academy. I've worked hard and earned the right, but I also know I was fortunate to have the opportunity come along."

After the dismissal, Uzelac went back to Michigan, and coached Bo Schembechler's offensive line.

"I'm like him in that coaching is our lives," Uzelac, 46, said. "Coaching is fun -- it's not work. When I come in here I've got a smile on my face. I love coming here. This is fun. I'm surrounded by wonderful people, who are very goal-oriented.

"When I'm on the field, that's when I'm happiest. Just get me to the field."

Maryland and Navy have played each other 20 times since they first met in 1897. They haven't met since 1965, and although Krivak has suggested resuming the series, local fans would be advised not to hold their collective breath.

"I can't do that unless we re-adjusted our whole schedule," Uzelac said. "It would be another Army or Air Force. We would have to drop a team like Notre Dame, or one of that caliber, which we can't do. There's a long tradition there and it's an excellent financial situation. And with the emotional ingredient {of a potential Maryland game}, we're not prepared to do that. I don't want any game or school to reach the emotional level of Army or Air Force. We can't have three of those."